Vortex, September 2013, Round 5 "Fairly solid play against a player 500 points higher rated"
Vortex September 2013, Round 5: Marthi v Reed (1-0)
G/30, d5, lose - Black with Sicilian, failed to steer to Najdorf, fairly solid, this was against the strongest player in the tournament and he said he thought my performance level in the game was ~1600-1700.
Just finished an exciting win, albeit low on time, in the last round. I am now playing the strongest player in the tournament, and my goal is to play solid, and try to understand where I go wrong.
1.e4 c5. Recently I am learning the Najodorf, so in my head I try to steer it that way, although equally bad will be to try and steer it that way when that is not appropriate...
2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 (oops, not Najdorf) 5.Bb5 (doh) Bd7 6.Nc3 Nf6 (trying to get back on track) 7.O-O g6 (why am I mixing systems?) 8.Kh1 (now we are definitely out of book) Bg7. 9.Be3. Let's take a look, White is very active, and has a better center. 9...O-O 10.f4.
At this point, I am facing a player 500 rating points my senior, and who others in the tournament were betting would sweep the tournament, which he almost did. Six rounds, 4 wins, 2 draws, no loss. And what do I see? Can I win a pawn? Maybe...
I see that 10...Nxd4 seems to work (within my calculation horizon), so I go for it, and indeed I nabbed a pawn! Even Houdini afterwards says Black has some advantage (less than half a pawn) which tells me there is some advantage, but White has other plusses in his favor, such as space and activity. Which honestly is more important than a pawn. Nonetheless, Marthi did tell be after the game that he did not see that tactic.
11.Bxd4 Bxb5 12.Nxb5 Nxe4 13.Bxg7 Kxg7. Slight digression. Often in the Sicilian Black wants to develop his Knight on g4 to attack White's Bishop if developed on e3, which only works if White didn't play h3 or f3. In this game I could have played 9...Ng4 instead of 9...O-O but I was worried about King saftey playing such a high rated player. However I should play the board instead, lol. If I traded White's Bishop on e3, then perhaps I could have kept my fianchetto Bishop? On the other have maybe this whole tactic wouldn't have happened.
14.Qd4+ Nf6 15.f5 Qb6, simply trying to exchange material, especially the Queens. 16.Qd3, keeping the Queens on the board 16...a6, still thinking about the pawn, and forcing my popponent to do what he wanted to do anyway which is centralizing his Knight. Instead I should push my own agenda as Silman would say, with 16...Rac8, and Black retains an advantage. Psychologically I understand I nabbed a pawn against a higher rated player. That was due to "taking the chance", and "pushing my agenda", so why all of a suddent get defensive when I know that ...Rac8 is thematic? Such is how we slowly let advantage slip through our fingers!
17.Nd4 Nd7, again I need to use my Rooks to retain any advantage, or stay equal, for example 17...Rae8. 18.Qc3 (mate threat) Ne5 19.fxg6 hxg6, and miraculously Black is still ok. 20.Rae1 Rac8 21.Qe3? instead of 21.Qd2 and here is where the mistakes start piling on for both players, but most severe, by a lot, for Black.
For example I see b2 at risk, but I also see Rb1, deflecting the Black Queen and regaining the pawn, but I do not see that in the process, the deflected Black Queen can force an exchange with the White Queen, leaving a Black Rook on c3, threatening another pawn. And so it goes, more complications, and increasingly feeling on the defensive, respecting my opponent's rating too much, plus that pesky G/30,d5 clock, and running out of time...
Black must remain active! However, the emotional need for safety won out, and Black played 21...Kg8. Not the worst, but simply taking the b2 pawn would be better, then White would be down two pawns! And after forcing exchanges (which Black didn't calculate enough to see) would retain a small but important advantage.
White responded with 22.Rf4, missing a change to neutralize with 22.b3. Black returned the favor with a bigger error 22...g5?? when again, 22...Qxb2 would leave Black with an advantage. Sure time is a factor in G/30, but Black really needs to do better with tactics in a game, real time.
23.Rf4, encroaching, 23...f6 24.Rg4 and then the fatal 24...f7?? when 24...fxg5 might have salvaged an approximately even position. Again, tactics, what Black didn't see was that after ...fxg5, and Qxg5+, if the Black King stays on the g and h files, hard as it is to see, he can maintain roughly an even position. Again, Black needs to work on tactics.
25.Rg7+!! which Black never saw coming, 25...Kxg7 26.Nf5+ and Black resigned.